could write so many words about ebikes. Just riff after riff after riff on even the emotions of whipping around on an ebike. So, you know what, here’s exactly that.
For whatever reason, probably a simple desire for a more enjoyable world in which to live in, I’ve ended as an occasional participant up on urbanist/ebike Twitter. And yesterday there was a bit of a main character. Main character article? Something like that.
That was a piece in The Atlantic titled ‘The E-bike is a monstrosity,’ with this observation the most salient.
Vehicles have symbolic value, like it or not. Cars denote freedom; commuter bikes imply, for better or worse, jerkitude or tweeness; motorcycles are cool; e-scooters are for douchebros. But e-bikes bear no clear character. They fall between the cracks. Even when I willingly tell people, “Oh, I got an e-bike,” I’m not sure if I’m bragging or revealing shame.
Those are some unintentionally revealing words that I obviously don’t agree with. But they’re words I thought about when out for a bike ride around the neighborhood last night, and felt the feeling such a ride usually invokes.
Ebikes make you feel like a kid.
There are so many words I could put after that. Or around that. But I can’t put it better any shorter than that.
If a visual representation is more your thing, here you go:
Yesterday evening, I went for an eight-mile ride for no reason. Not even really a specific destination.
I finished work and other tasks about 6:30pm and with no plans and nice weather but a desire to not be out too long, I put my dog on the back and we headed out.
First it was over and through the neighboring park to see if any other dogs were playing, then down a couple nearby blocks with sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound before deciding to head for a specific stretch of street-end shore access.
In other words, a secret beach.
It was a few miles from where we were, but mostly downhill. And Grinnell really likes to lean out and catch the wind when we’re cruising at a good clip downhill—so that’s an extra bonus. We got there, locked up, and just hung out; we waded in the water for a few minutes before sitting on a little seawall and enjoying a Seattle sunset with its saturation pushed to 11.
After a bit, I remembered I think I’d seen a nearby deck/vista thing I hadn’t been to before. It was just like a half-mile down, so we went there too—and there was a view of the railroad bridge and the canal that I hadn’t seen before.
And it was great. We chilled and watched a train roll across the bridge. Or I did as Gri sniffed around at all the nearby bushes.
Then it was home for dinner.
• • • •
That is the character of an ebike.
The traveling parts of our quick little journey weren’t the only point to our time out—but they weren’t a small part of it, particularly enjoyable with a dog on the back and tunes in one ear.
You’re out in the world as you move through it. If there’s something nearby you want to check out, you go. You roll right up to it, without a care. There’s freedom, but also a deep curiosity to it.
Oh, that’s right—that spot. Wonder what that’s about. Will only take a couple minutes to check out.
Away you go, to anywhere you want that’s even relatively nearby. And just like when you were a kid, when five blocks in every direction felt like a good-sized parcel to roam, except now it’s five miles in every direction—or more.
You’re not in a bubble. You’re not fretting the most efficient route. And it’s not hard. You cruise up every reasonable incline, cover any reasonable distance.
If you take a turn too early and head up the wrong street, you just see a block or six you’ve never seen before. And it’s pretty cool.
So if you’re wondering what it’s about, what it’s distilled down to as far as aesthetics and vibes and whatever, there you go.
It’s childlike wonder—every bit as good, if not better, than the practicality.